Date: Sunday March 18, 2007
Event: Grand Street ramp, Alameda, to Sausalito and Angel Island. 9:30 AM to 8:00 PM (10.5 hrs on the water.)
w/ Solo sail . . . Just me and Lazy Ka.
Winds: The day started with 3-4 knot winds on the estuary with afternoon winds estimated in the force 6 range (22-27 knots) by the Beaufort Scale. Upon returning home, I confirmed the after noon winds at 22-25 knots.
Weather: Overcast for the first  hour or so, burning off to Sunshine by 10:30. Sunshine was enjoyed most of the day with fog rolling through the Golden Gate in the late afternoon hours.
 

Plan for the dayCourse of the day: Grand Street Ramp, Alameda, to Sausalito, Ayala Cove, Angel Island and back to Grand Street.
The past two weeks, since my last sail, have been spent making a couple of needed additions to Lazy Ka. The first is a Vang: Lazy Ka was not equipped with this necessary piece of rigging. Former owners of Lazy Ka were fresh-water lake sailors, and a Vang was likely not deemed a necessary requirement. But last year I quickly learned the importance of a Vang when subjected to strong winds. I had experienced a couple of unintended jibes where the boom lifted almost parallel to the mast, then came crashing down uncontrollably. The force of the falling boom could be very dangerous. The obvious solution to the problem is a Boom Vang. Need number two, a real Tillerlock . . . the bungee chord approach that I was using was not doing the job. I couldn't leave the helm for more than Crew races on Oakland Estuary . . . Note the morning overcast  (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)a few seconds at a time. Not enough time to accomplish much of anything.

It has been said that the student sailor could not find a better classroom than San Francisco Bay on which to hone ones skills. Today's outing managed to bring this concept home to me in Spades! The bay seemed to throw all she had at Lazy Ka and me, and we responded as best we could, with me learning much along the way.

I wanted for a big day of sailing, so I left the house early; I managed to get Lazy Ka rigged in record time, which put me on the Estuary, under overcast skies, earlier that usual. I maneuvered around the morning crew races that run out of the Jack London Aquatic Center, and headed out the Estuary for the bay. As I neared the West end of Alameda Island,Yerba Buena Light, on South East Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco, California. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan) the overcast began to burn off revealing the forecast blue skies. My plan was to sail out the Estuary on the tide and return likewise in the late afternoon.

The San Francisco skyline under the Bay Bridge. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)It was at the entrance to the Estuary that I decided to adjust my plan for the day; I could see much sailing activity west of Alcatraz and beyond in Richardson Bay off Sausalito. With daylight savings early this year, I had plenty of daylight to see me to Sausalito and back to Grand Street before dark. 

OutThe Coast Guard is always present on the bay. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan) into the central bay
Under full sail I headed for the South side of Yerba Buena Island
for a photo run past the Yerba Buena Light, then on under the Bay Bridge for Alcatraz. Along the way I crossed the course of of the ever-present Coast Guard just  west of Treasure Island, and made for Alcatraz. Entering the central bay where the relative protection of the San Francisco hills and the Northern peninsula makes for building winds; the comfort of 10 knots gave way to near 20 as I approached historic Alcatraz for more pictures. "Irish Lady" took third palace in Division B of the 2006 Pacific Cup race, San Francisco to Oahu, Hawaii. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

I ducked briefly into the shelter of the East side of the island for a closer look at the buildings and other sailors rounding the island as well. It was here that I happened onto a photo op on a passing Cal-42, Irish Lady, with Spinnaker flying in all it's glory. After returning home, I wanted to send my photos to the Skipper under the presumption that no Skipper can have enough pictures of his boat under sail. A little internet sleuthing took me to http://www.irishladyracing.com/ for the whole story. Turns out Irish Lady placed third (Division B,) in last year's coveted Pacific Cup (2006) race from San Francisco to Hawaii . . . I was in the presence of royalty.Spinnakers through the Golden Gate. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

Then it was back around South Alcatraz, and into the blow once more. My passage West of Alcatraz took me between the island and the finish line for races of the day. I could see the boats letting spinnakers fly as they turned the final leg in the distance somewhere near the Golden Gate Bridge. I managed to turn to my camera long enough to get off a few snapshots of the spectacle. I was under sufficient control  be able to eat my picnic lunch while sailing this leg of my crossing.

What fun this was!!! . . . seriously, I was really enjoying high winds for the first time. I had successfully managed winds in excess of 20 knots a half dozen times or more last season; I always got back dry and in one piece. But I was never really comfortable sailing in such conditions. I felt competent, but not totally comfortable. Well today, all that changed. After almost five months down-time, all that I had learned last year came immediately back to me. With Lazy Ka healing at a consistent 10-15 degrees, traveling her maximum 5 knot hull-speed (my best guess,) and me hanging on for dear life, it was exhilarating. The Vang was in play, giving me the added sail control that had been missing in the past. I truly felt a sense of control, the absence of which was the root of my past discomfort. It was a great feeling to have reached another skills-plateau.Sausalito and Richardson Bay dead ahead. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

Sausalito in view
Continuing my crossing to the North-West of Alcatraz toward Sausalito and Richardson Bay, I estimated the winds to be 22-27 knots by the Beaufort Scale. Monday,
I confirmed 25 knots online. My wind estimating skill seems to be improving as well. In the distance, I could see the calmer waters of the entrance to Richardson Bay, sheltered by the Horizons/Ondine Restaurant, Former home to the San Francisco Yacht Club. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)hills of the Marin Headlands. Well into the bay's entrance, I spotted a significant disturbance on the water ahead that seemed to come from air flowing down the Eastern slop of the Marin hills, and striking the water's surface. I read this to be turbulence best avoided, and turned further out into central Richardson Bay before cutting back toward the Sausalito waterfront.

Mt. Tamalpais and the Schooner Chantal from Richardson Bay. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)I made a photo pass on the prominent Sausalito landmark, the Horizons Restaurant. The building, the former home to a restaurant venture by the Kingston Trio (c. 1965 to 1979) as the Trident, was originally built as the San Francisco Yacht Club, the oldest such club on the West Coast. Then, hugging the Sausalito waterfront, I proceeded until blocked by the ferry terminal, where I turned to starboard and into central Richardson Bay to enjoy the view of Mt. Tamalpais and the numerous vessels anchored mid-bay.Afternoon fog shrouds the Golden Gate Bridge. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

Back into the blow once more
Noting that it was now getting close to 3:00 PM, I decided it best to head back into the bay on a return course that would take me West of Angel Island, East of Alcatraz, and again along Western Treasure Island and Yerba Buena. Now to starboard was the Golden Gate Bridge, partially
Classic schooner off Camp Reynolds, Angel Ialand. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)shrouded in the afternoon fog that was beginning to roll into the bay. I dreaded the thought of getting caught out too late in the cool, sometimes bitter-cold, of an evening fog. I really dislike sailing when I'm cold. Though I carry appropriate dress for all conditions, I don't relish needing to bundle up.

Coming out again from behind the protection of the Marin hills, found the wind was still blowing in excess of 20 knots--later confirmed in the neighborhood of 22-24 knots. The big boys were still at it. In evidence, I offer this snapshot of a classic schooner, with Camp Reynolds, Angel Island, as a backdrop.Forestay laying loose on the companionway hatch cover. (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)

Oops!
One becomes accustomed to the sounds of the vessel under sail; the normal sounds that let the skipper know that all is OK. This allows for time to enjoy the scenery and relative quiet of letting nature move you over the water. Then there are the sounds that snap you back to the duties of command from your surrounds. So it was that snapped me back from enjoying the view of west Angel Island. The "snap" was the sound of my forestay letting go! For most Potters, this would spell disaster; being out
in a 25 knot blow with nothing to secure the mast. In my case, I have backup redundancy, twice times. I had both of my headsails in place. And both sails contain a luff-wire that are each strong enough to provide forestay support, but considering the conditions that I was sailing in, I had concerns. So heeding caution, I decided it best to seek a protected inlet to allow me to secure the forestay.Angel Island map, centered on Ayala Cove (PHOTO: http://www.angelisland.org/ai_map.htm)

NOTE: At this point my photos run out. In other words, I was otherwise occupied, and didn't have the luxury of attending to my camera for more pictures.

The nearest safe haven was Ayala Cove, Angel Island, some two miles East. This also would allow me to keep the wind at my back and tension on the shrouds along the way. I headed toward Raccoon Straight and was making headway relative to landmarks on shore. In fact, I was making better headway than a couple of the larger boats around. But this was short lived. At some point I realized that I wasn't making much headway at all . . . Slap me in the forehead (kind of a "I could have had a V-8" snap back to reality)Angel Island State Park map  (PHOTO: California State Parks) . . . there is one heck of a strong current flowing out through the Strait, like almost all the runoff from the Sacramento/San Joaquin River watershed. I've read that 6 knots is typical. And here I am trying to buck the current just as the tide is beginning to go out. How's that for timing?

My solution: fire up the motor. My little 3.0 HP semi-antique fired right up, and I was moving again. Chalk off one more lesson learned in the school of San Francisco Bay . . . remember: currents and tides, currents and tides!

Ahhh (A sigh of relief) . . .
I made Ayala Cove a little over 30 minutes after  starting up the motor. As soon as I rounded Point Ione into the cove, I felt the relief I was looking for to allow me to safely go forward to re-secure the forestay. I was only out of the cockpit for a couple minutes to effect the repair, then a quick once-over inspection of all else before pointing the bow of Lazy Ka back out into Raccoon Strait and an East-bound course; then South for the return trip to Alameda Island.

Back in the Strait once more, it became immediately apparent that the motor was still required, so Under outboard power, I continued on my way.

Oh, Oh!
The only significant down-side that I have found  to a two-cycle motor is the noise level . . . they are loud when compared to the four-cycle counterpart. So here I am, motoring along, making excellent headway, generating more than my share of noise, when the noise level increases by what seemed tenfold! Something had apparently failed on my motor, and I'm in no position to stop to troubleshoot. The clock is still running toward sunset, the fog is getting heavier, and I have no interest in getting caught out on the bay after dark. I motor on . . .

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire!
It's back out into the bay from the shelter of Angel Island and the full force of the 25-30 knot winds of the late after noon/early evening. I shut down the outboard, and go under sail again. The time is now closing on 5:00 PM; this means that is unlikely that I'm going to make Grand Street before dark. I still have close to 12 miles to cover, and the numbers just don't work for a landing before dark. Now I will be happy to make the Estuary before sunset at 7:20 PM.

I've now added a needed drill to my to-do list. In these winds I can't bring myself to let go of the tiller to reef the main. This is a first for me. I've never before felt the need to reef . . . I need some practice on the reefing drill. One advantage to furlers is how quick and easy it is to reef or douse the foresails with one hand on the tiller. But I'm just not ready to bounce around uncontrollably in the middle of San Francisco Bay to reef the main in this kind of wind. I'll be quizzing the more experienced Potter Yachters on reefing technique in the near future.

Onward under Mainsail only, pretty much on a broad reach, keeping the sheet in hand, routinely adjusting to dump air in compensation for the frequent gusts. Now it's been said that the Potter 15 is a dry boat . . . yeah, most of the time! But here I am, flying along at what must be all that Lazy Ka is capable of, Waves breaking across the bow, and others, driven by the wind, breaking on the starboard rail. I'm sitting in a puddle and am soaking wet from head to toe from the splash that comes every 10 to 15 seconds. To make matters worse, the sun has dropped behind the fogbank; the less that 60 degree water temperature is reduced even more by the chilling effect of the winds . . . I am cold!

Pointing Lazy Ka for the North-East corner of Treasure Island, I want to make it on a direct shot as close to the Island as I can, to take advantage of the relative shelter that will be offered by the island and it's buildings. At the same time, I want to be far enough offshore to maintain the good speed that I'm making against the approaching dark.

Cracks in the Tiller of Lazy Ka (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)Then it happens. I hear a cracking sound and feel an unfamiliar looseness in the tiller. A close inspection reveals a longitudinal crack along one of the center laminations. Lateral pressure on the tiller causes the crack to Cracks in the Tiller of Lazy Ka (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)open up more. The constant forces of waves and this skipper seem to have presented more stress than the device could withstand. My temporary fix is to tightly wrap the tiller, as best I can, with one of the heavy-duty bungee chords I keep stowed in the cockpit. I augment the binding by trying to apply less force to the tiller, and a prayer for good measure . . . The last thing I need now, is total failure.

There isn't much boat traffic out here . There hasn't been much since Raccoon Strait. As I came out of the Strait I passed a dozen or so  boats, all grouped together, headed north toward San Rafael. Since then, I've seen only two others between Angel Island and Yerba Buena. The absence of traffic confirms my desire to get in before dark.

 . . . And I thought it couldn't get any worse . . .
In the shadow of Treasure Island I find winds in the 18-20 knot range, and behind Yerba Buena Island, even less, 10-15 knots . . .  it's smooth sailing. as I turn into the Estuary the wind is at my back; I set my new homemade ($25.00) whisker Pole, and begin my run toward home. But a mile or so into the Estuary is a bend to starboard, changing the relative wind direction. Down comes the Whisker Pole. Wit slack on my Lapper, and gusty winds, the pin securing the furler shakes loose leaving the sail flailing wildly. With some effort, I release the halyard and drop the Lapper into the cabin. This flailing of the Lapper has  tangled sheets and sails, involving the jib and main as well . . . It's a mess! And I'm in no mood to untangle it all in the wind and cold. So it's back to the motor.

Good news, the motor fired right up; bad news, the sound is defining! And I'm embarrassed to be sharing all of this noise pollution to the relative quiet of the estuary. I just want to make Grand Street, pull out, and head for home, and my little motor is going the get the job done.

Safely home
I'm at the Grand Street dock A few minutes after 8:00 PM, with Lazy Ka loaded, rigged for travel, and on the road before 9:00. Before 10:00 I'm in the comfort of my living room with a relaxing glass of wine in hand to end my most exciting day of sailing to date.

A Post Script
Monday morning I awake with more sore muscles than I've felt in years. I didn't realize what a workout I was getting while in the middle of it all. I'm going to need a day or two to recover.  As for Lazy Ka, closer inspection of the motor, in the comfort of my garage, reveals that it had blown the exhaust gasket . . . an easy and inexpensive repair.

This was, without a doubt, a day of sailing that I will likely have to go a long way to better. The thrill of pushing my little Potter literally to the breaking point, and knowing that I have developed the skills to deal with just about anything that San Francisco Bay can throw my way leaves me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Another accomplishment for the day was the distance covered. I easily managed something in excess of 35 miles for the day. Now, that feels good. I'd like to try this one again in the near future.